Follow-up on My Exchange with Randal Rauser

Last week I got involved in what I would have hoped to be a dialogue with Randal Rauser regarding a handful of tweets he’d put up on Twitter. It turned out to be pseudo-dialogue, with him refusing or abstaining from answering my questions, yet insisting that I answer his, after he tried changing the subject on me.

I know some folks on Facebook were aware of this going on, after I posted this blog post on it, but not all of them would have followed it on Twitter. I’m putting this here to tie a bow on it for them and for myself. I thought it would be interesting to count how many times he demanded I drop what I was there to talk about, and answer his questions on his preferred, perhaps more comfortable topic. It was also interesting to see how few of my questions he answered.

I close with some thoughts on integrity in discourse.

It wasn’t a clean question-answer Twitter thread, so at points the sequence was hard to reconstruct. I dropped a few tweets where he said, rightly, that links had come through, and where I followed up by providing them again. They’re not germane now, though I did leave a couple in anyway. What follows is my best reconstruction of the sequence, with all the relevant tweets I was able to identify.

Some Preliminary Tweets of Concern

I’ll let you click on his pic link so you know what I’m referring to in this answer:

There’s the first question I asked him that he never answered.

There’s the second question I asked him that he never answered.

There’s the third question I asked him that he never answered.

The “Stereotyping” Pseudo-Dialogue Begins

Who’s Deflecting?

There’s a tweet missing here; I can’t track it down.

He Promises to Respond, and I Respond

With that as at least a mild acknowledgment, even though it answered only one of the three questions above, I decided to go ahead and start answering his question about how he was stereotyping. I begin by asking him for some specific clarification.

There’s the fourth question I asked him that he never answered. He gave a vague, general response, as you see below, but no answer to the very specific questions I asked.

There’s the fifth question I asked him that he never answered.

He Begins Insisting on a Change of Topic

That was his central thesis, not mine; but if it actually was under debate, why didn’t he answer my questions about it above? This was his first attempt to take control of the topic. More to come.

But no, it was not the central thesis, as far as I was concerned. I entered the conversation with questions about his treatment of McDowell and Childers, and then I wrote a blog post showing how he had completely misrepresented McDowell, with a list of egregious errors in the use of evidence and reasoning. That was what I was here to talk about. In no way was Childers’ or McDowell’s treatment of progressive Christians the topic I came to discuss. But with all temerity, he tried wresting the topic over to a “central thesis” of his definition and of his preference.

That was his second attempt. The following third attempt has the same words but it is not the same tweet. It came later:

Here’s number four:

Pushiness

Number five, an ironic attempt to make me look like the one who’s deflecting, when he had refused to address my blog points, along with five questions in this discussion string. He’s also talking about his “central topic” again, ignoring the other topic I had introduced: his own writings and message on video:

It’s incredible how hard he was pushing me to get on his topic, as if my bringing up Topic A, which he didn’t want to talk about, obligated me to discuss his more comfortable Topic B. And as if I was a really bad interlocutor, “deflecting,” for not dropping Topic A and following his demands to talk about what he wanted to talk about!

Number six:

Please note, I had asked him two questions related to this (my second and third questions to him), and he had not answered.

I guess I didn’t answer him the way he wanted me to. Meanwhile, note all the questions I put to him before he declared to me what the “central thesis” of our conversation was — a central thesis that was in no way central to what I had entered the conversation to talk about.

Drawing It to an Unsatisfactory Close

Number seven:

The sum of it: He effectively ignored me and my questions, except for trying to beat me up for not answering his. It didn’t work. I don’t feel beat up.

Closing thoughts on integrity in discourse

I told Rauser I was bowing out, but there remains one more thing I must say. I suspect it will be on some readers’ minds, and I want to get there ahead of you. It’s about Rauser’s complete refusal to look seriously in the mirror of another writer’s assessment, and to consider whether he might be making some mistakes.

I have to say I am astonished. It’s not that it’s necessarily true that my analysis is correct. I think it is, or I wouldn’t have written it, but I’d be just as astonished if he responded that way to a false analysis, on the order of the careful examination I conducted.

I have been blogging here and writing in many other venues since 2004. Every time — and I mean every time anyone has called me out for an error, I have responded. It’s a matter of integrity. More than once I’ve responded by acknowledging and correcting mistakes I’ve made.

It’s even more important I do that when the charge is that I’ve misrepresented someone. In that case I must examine it, because if it’s an actual misrepresentation and I let it stand, then I’m effectively lying about that person. Even if I examine it and find that I haven’t made that mistake, I’ll at least acknowledge it was worth looking into! I’ll do the same here, of course.

Rauser misrepresented Sean McDowell. That’s what I see, as I blogged earlier, and I gave explicit, evidence-based reasons for drawing that conclusion. I do not believe there is any way he could examine what he said about Sean McDowell, or the images he posted, and come away thinking he represented Sean accurately. He doesn’t have to agree with me on that, but it’s incredible to think he doesn’t even consider it important enough to look into. He says it’s “nothing substantive,” not worth spending time on

I cannot imagine not caring about that, again, as a matter of integrity.

I did not call him dishonest in the course of this Twitter exchange. I do not know his motivations, and I think it’s unlikely he would be intentionally dishonest. I can see two other live options: He can’t do the analysis because he lacks competency to assess evidence and logic, which I also think is extremely unlikely, or he’s so intent on pursuing someone else’s errors he’s blind to his own. I don’t know how likely that is in his case.

I don’t know if there’s a fourth option. I don’t need to know. It’s not my life, not my issue, and I don’t expect to interact with him much more, so I have no need to draw any conclusions. If I were Rauser, though? I’d want to be sure I wasn’t making any such mistake.

Tom Gilson

Vice President for Strategic Services, Ratio Christi Lead Blogger at Thinking Christian Editor, True Reason BreakPoint Columnist

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2 Responses

  1. Paul D. Van Pelt says:

    Fallacy is a universal device, employed by philosophers and public intellectuals who don’t wish to be in a discussion on any other than their terms. An occupational hazard. Comments are treated as fair game for criticism. We all get annoyed by these tactics.

  1. March 22, 2023

    […] completa: eu tive duro conversas com Randal Rauser, que disse isso, e foi especificamente sobre suas ações. Agora quero me […]